One of eight returning letterwinners for the Groveport Madison High School wrestling team, Shakur Laney is seeking a return trip to the Division I state tournament.
The junior was the Cruisers' lone state qualifier last season, going 3-2 and placing fourth at 106 pounds at Ohio State to finish 33-8 on the season. He lost to Brunswick's Josh Heil 4-2 in the third-place match.
Laney, who won a district title last season, has moved up to 113 this season.
"Shakur Laney is one of the top wrestlers in central Ohio," said coach Pat Niemann, whose team opens Saturday, Dec. 14, in the Hamilton Township Classic. "His work ethic and commitment to the sport are second to none. We are very excited about the opportunities that are coming in his quest to become Groveport Madison's second state champion."
Niemann is in his second stint as head coach. He coached Groveport for six seasons from 2004-10 and was an assistant coach the past two seasons under his brother, Mark, who resigned as coach during the offseason after overseeing the program for two seasons.
Groveport also returns its only other district qualifier from a year ago in Malcolm Solack, who went 1-2 at 195 at district at Hilliard Darby to finish 11-6. The junior is competing at 220 this season.
"Malcolm is a solid wrestler who has a lot of experience and has risen through our youth program," Niemann said. "He is steady, not spectacular. He's technically sound. Laney and Solack are our best wrestlers. Then we have a group at the next level down that are good wrestlers who could be even better but lack consistency at this point."
The other returning letterwinners are seniors Briar Sayre (132) and Thomas Thornton (160), juniors Brendan Finneran (195) and Kyle Stover (145) and sophomores Marshall Buck (170) and Eli Schleret (113/120).
Also back are senior Ryan Smith (126) and sophomore Matt Miller (106), both of whom missed the second half of last season. Among the newcomers are senior Dayrell Billingsly (152) and freshmen Blake Fawley (138) and Kyle Duty (160/170).
"Billingsly had to sit out last year after transferring from Africentric and I'm anxious to see what he can do," Niemann said. "Fawley and Duty also have been very impressive in the practice room, so I can't wait to see how all of these guys fare once we really get going.
"I think we're going to be pretty good because we usually have three or four guys with experience and maybe eight or nine first-year wrestlers. This year, those numbers are switched. I believe this will be one of the better teams we've had here in a long time."
Boys basketball team wins first two games
The boys basketball team, who won only two of its first eight games last season, opened this season with back-to-back wins.
Groveport held off visiting Westerville Central 54-53 in its opener Nov. 30, getting 13 points and six rebounds from Markel Davis and 11 points from Carmearl Thomas, before defeating host Chillicothe 50-43 on Dec. 3.
Against Central, Davis converted a three-point play off an assist from Tyus Ferguson with just under a minute to play.
"We trailed Central by eight points late in the third quarter, but Tyus Ferguson, Raymond Rhone and C.J. Crowder all made 3-pointers that gave us a 41-40 lead and we built off that momentum," said coach Ryan Grashel, whose team's OCC-Ohio Division opener against Gahanna on Dec. 6 was postponed until Dec. 9. "It was a great win because we handled the deficit well, stayed composed and pulled it out.
"I also thought it was important for us because the bench play was great, and that's key for us. We're going 10 (players) deep and they're all gaining confidence. Rhone, Tyrell Carter, Jake Seipel and Tre Charles-Martin came off the bench and played well."
Ferguson had 11 points and Crowder scored nine to lead Groveport against Chillicothe. The Cruisers trailed 11-6 after the first quarter but outscored the Cavaliers 14-9 in the second and 17-5 in the third.
"It's nice to get a win in your first road game," Grashel said. "It was a long trip on a school night and it was a good atmosphere there. We didn't play well and allowed too many offensive rebounds, but we got the win. Rhone played great defense and Carmearl Thomas has given us a good inside presence on both ends of the floor."